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Snowe’s Help to Advance Defense Bill Is in Doubt

Sen. Olympia Snowe rebuked Democrats for stifling debate on a defense authorization bill in a statement that all but indicates she will not vote to proceed to the measure this week.

“First and foremost, the Senate should have the ability to debate more than the three amendments the Majority Leader is allowing,” the Maine Republican said in the statement. “It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that Senators may wish to offer.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a procedural motion to move to the defense authorization measure, which includes language to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring openly gay service members. Republicans are widely against the amendment and have uniformly criticized Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for what they expect to be limited debate on the defense authorization, which in past years has enjoyed bipartisan support.

On Monday, a group of gay rights activists with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network traveled to Maine in a final attempt to convince Sens. Snowe and Susan Collins (R) to join Democrats in voting for the procedural motion to move on to the bill. Collins was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the DADT repeal amendment when the Armed Services Committee marked up the defense authorization in May, and both she and Snowe have indicated their support of a repeal after the Pentagon completes a review of the policy.

But Snowe’s statement Monday cast doubts on hopes that she will cross party lines this week. Like her Republican colleagues, she said that a DADT repeal should not occur until after the Pentagon has completed its yearlong review. “We should all have the opportunity to review that report which is to be completed on December 1, as we reevaluate this policy and the implementation of any new changes,” she said in the statement.

Earlier Monday, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) acknowledged he was unsure whether Democrats had the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

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